« PreviousContinue »
(aion) world? Ver.39,40. By the answer to this question, it is settled whether the event of this parable refer to the future existence of mankind, or whether it had its proper fulfillment at the time of the destruction of the Jewish state. The phrase rendered end of the world” is sunteleia tou aionos, and signifies literally, the conclusion of the age. The same expression occurs Heb. ix. 26, where we read that Jesus appeared, at the conclusiou of the age, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. As Christianity may be said to have begun when the Jewish religion ended, so Christ is said to have appeared at the end of the Jewish age. The apostle Paul stated, that the end of the age had happened in his day, “Upon whom the ends of the ages (ta tele ton aionon) are come.” 1 Cor. x. 11. The same subject is again spoken of Matt. xxiv. 3, where we are informed, that the disciples asked the Saviour, what should be the sign of his coming, and of the conclusion of the age, (sunteleias tou aionos.) He speaks of the end of that age, in verses 6, 13, 14 of the same chapter, and after pointing them to such signs as would infallibly enable them to discern its approach, he adds, ver. 33, "Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. On the strength of this testimony, plain, clear and incontrovertible, we say that the harvest took placé, at the conclusion of the Mosaic age; and we add, that there is not an instance in the New Testament, in which the Greek phrase, rendered, 'end of the world' in the parable on which we are remarking, has any other signification. It never should be forgotten, that the • end of the world,' vers. 39, 40, at which the harvest was to take place, was not the end of kosmos, the world said to be the field, but the end of aion,
the age, and unquestionably referred to the conclusion of the Jewish state. But that we have assigned the harvest to the proper time, will be made more evident by the next particular to be noticed.1
1 To shew that this interpretation of the parable is not peculiar to the denomination of Christians to which the author is well known to belong, the attention of the reader is invited to the following facts :
Dr. Hammond, a most loyal member of the English church, who flourished nearly two centuries ago, translates the phrase sunteleia tou aionos, ' conclusion of the age,' and he makes it refer primarily to the then solemn and approaching time of the visitation of the Jews. Paraphrase and Annotations in loco.
Adam Clarke, who as every body knows was zealously devoted to the doctrines of the Methodist church, closes his remarks on the parable by saying, “ Some learned men are of opinion, that the whole of this parable refers to the Jewish state and people ; and that the words sunteleia tou aionos, which are commonly translated the end of the world, should be rendered the end of the age, viz. the end of the Jewish polity. That the words have this meaning in other places, there can be no doubt ; and this may be their primary meaning here ;" but he adds that there are some particulars in the parable which agree better with the consummation of all things, but he does not tell us what those particulars are. Com. in loco.
The great commentator Pearce, Bishop of Rochester, translates sunteleia tou aionos, "end of this age, viz. that of the Jewish dispensation." “ This is spoken,', he adds, “not of what is to happen at the end of the world, but of what was to happen at the end or destruction of the Jewish state. In a note to ver, 41 he says, “I have explained this and the foregoing verse, as relating not to the end of the world; but to that of the Jewish state, which was to be destroyed within forty years after Jesus's death : for the same manner of expression is made use of, when it is more certain, that not the time of the general judgment, but that of the visitation of the Jews is meant, viz. in Matt. xvi. 27, 28 where it is said, the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels, and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” This last verse, accomplished in one of the apostles at least (I mean John) plainly shews, that all the phrases used in the first verse were designed to express only the destruction that was to befal the Jewish state : at which time the Christians, who endured to the end, were to be saved, Matt. X. 22 and xxiv.
“The reapers are the angels.' What did Jesus intend by the angels? Familiar traditions have confined the application of this word almost exclusively to superhuman beings; but surely the attentive reader of the Bible need not be informed that the terın angel is precisely synonimous with messenger, and that it is applied not only to mankind, but even to inanimate objects. Jesus always represented himself, when coming to destroy the Jewish state, as being attended with angels. 6 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels; * * * verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” Matt. xvi. 27, 28. Mark viii. 38 and ix. 1. Luke ix. 26, 27. Here the coming of Christ, with his angels, is confined to that generation. On another occasion Jesus said, “ they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory : and he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet,” to which he immediately adds, “this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” Matt. xxiv. 30, 31, 34. See also Matt. xxv. 31 and 2 Thess. i. 7. It is a circumstance which confirms our application of the parable, that the Son of man sends forth his angels to destroy his enemies, for this language is invariably applied, in the New Testament, to the destruction of Jerusalem, whenever that event is described. In the parable before us the angels, or messengers, were to be the agents of destruction to the enemies of Christ; and by comparing this 13. These are also called the elect in Matt. 22, 24. And Ecclesiastical history informs us, that by a divine admonition the faithful Christians, retired from Judea before the ruin of it by the Romans, and were preserved. See Matt. iii. 12. xxiv. 22. Luke xxi. 18, 36. part with what is stated Matt. xxii. 7, we ascertain who the messengers of destruction were. “But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth; and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” Here it is certainly meant that the Roman armies were the messengers which God sent to destroy his rebellious people, the Jews.
We come now to consider another important question, viz. what did Jesus signify by the “furnace of fire,' into which the wicked were cast by the angels of destruction, to whom God had given them up? We know it has been the usual opinion, that this furnace of fire is a place of torment in the future world. But are there any who have yet to learn, that this figure was employed by the sacred writers to represent temporal destruction ? The bondage Israel suffered under Pharaoh was described as a furnace.
16 But the Lord hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt.” Deut. iv. 20. See also 1 Kings viii. 51. Isaiah xlviii. 10. Jer. xi. 4. So the tremendous calamities, the great tribulation' suffered by the Jews at the destruction of their favorite city-compared with which the afflictions suffered in Egypt were less than nothing-are represented by a furnace of fire ;' and the application of the
figure to the city of Jerusalem is made so directly i and indisputably, that the most obtuse sense must
perceive it. "The Lord's fire is in Zion, and his FURNACE in Jerusalem." Isaiah xxxi. 9.
A passage still more full, and more pointed, remains to be quoted. 66 And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross : all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are
even the dross of silver. Therefore thus saith the Lord God, because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem ; as they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it, so will I gather you in mine anger, and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you. Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you in the fire of my wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof. As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye
be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out my fury upon you." Ezk. xxii. 17–22. There cannot remain a lingering doubt that the furnace of fire' was the city of Jerusalem, into which God gathered the Jewish nation, and there he melted them in the fire of his wrath, and destroyed them by the messengers of his judgments. The plainness of this subject can hardly be said to have a parailel; and yet I dare not hope, that it will bring a blush on the faces of those who have for a long time obstinately persisted, that this furnace of fire is in the future world.
After the destruction of the wicked, the righteous were to shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father—who were these? The answer is obvioussuch as were in the kingdom-such as had set down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, while others were cast out; of whom it is said in the book of Daniel, that they shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they shall turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever." xii. 3. Their persecutors the Jews being destroyed, and persecutions on every hand being abated and softened, they would experience comparative earthly felicity, and have an enlarged enjoyment of gospel peace